A Tale of OPSEC

Preppers often talk about OPSEC, or operational security.  Yes, we stole the term from the military as a fancy way to tell people to keep their teeth in the closest proximity to one another possible when talking about preps.  Most of us know it’s important, but I want to recount a story from a buddy of mine during Hurricane Katrina.

My buddy had prepped for some time and had tried to talk to all of his friends about the need to prepare through the years.  Invariably, most of them said, “Dude, if something happens, we’re coming to your house.”

Everyone had a good laugh and went on with their evening.

Then Katrina rocked New Orleans, where he lived.  My buddy opted to stay put.  He was apparently high enough that he wasn’t worried about flooding, and he had food, water, and the means to prepare dinner, so there was no reason to be a refugee.

As the storm passed, the ugliness began.  Many of us remember what happened.  We watched it on the news.  Looting, word of rioting, everything we preppers have said was going to happen.  There it was, on the news.

For my buddy, it was bad enough, but for him the real problem was the locusts.

You know what locusts are.  They’re insects who swoop in, eat everything, then leave.  Well, that’s the term I use for his friends who showed up.  It wasn’t long after the storm passed that they started knocking on his door.  They wanted to swoop in and eat his food.

My friend pretended to not be home.  It was hard for him.  These were his friends, and they were in need.

However, he also understood that he didn’t know how long he’d need to provide for him and his girlfriend with what he had stocked.  Every person he fed would cut his own food stores exponentially.  He just couldn’t take them all in, and how do you pick which of your friends you let in?

There’s a lesson in this that I’ve held near and dear.

Community matters, of course.  That’s why I started a Facebook group last week for people I know who are preppers in my neck of the woods.  We can reach out, meet up, share information, etc.  However, we’re sharing it with a group of people who aren’t likely to be locusts.

However, in my day to day life?  There I don’t talk about it with anyone unless I think they’re receptive.  Generally, not even then.  I let them broach the subject most of the time.

The idea here is that the locusts won’t know to come knocking on my door.

Keep your mouth shut unless you want guests.  If you do say something, at least let it be someone you’re planning on feeding anyways.

The Plan

As I said previously, it’s time to put a plan together rather than just “buy all the foods!”  What will follow here is my own ramblings as I try to work out things in my head.  This kind of thing can be substantial, but I’m hopeful that I’ll get some feedback on my ideas to make sure I’m not being stupid.

First, my situation.

  • I do not own my home at this time, so I can’t do any significant modifications
  • I’m self-employed and work at home.
  • My wife doesn’t work.
  • We live in a mobile home in a not-so-great area. There are good people here, but there are scumbags too.
  • I have several weeks worth of food stored up already.
  • We are on city water with a reservoir nearby, but no option for a well.
  • My youngest child is four-years-old while my oldest is 14.
  • We’re moderately well armed with various long guns.  I also have two pistols and a shotgun.  Ammo is lacking on almost all of these, however.

I think that’s about it.

Now, I tend to think of things best in phases.  After all, priorities today and priorities a year from now can be very, very different.  So this is Phase I.

Phase I consists of a plan of sheltering in place for several months.  Bugging out may have to happen, but that’s why my bugout bag exists.  I don’t want to live out of that bag, but right now that’s all I can do.  Phase II will deal with a bugout plan if needed.

First, I’m going to prioritize things.

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Means to cook food
  4. Medical Supplies
  5. Weapons/Ammo
  6. Comfort

We live in South Georgia, where cold isn’t as much of an issue as it is most places, but I’ll lump that in with “comfort” primarily because we can survive our winters here well enough so long as we have blankets and body heat, but we’ll be miserable.

Water

This is a huge, gaping hole in my preps right now.  The plan right now is to pick up a WaterBOB or two for the bathtubs.  This would give us a hundred gallons or more in an emergency.

Obviously, there are problems with this plan.  I have to make an assumption that I can fill one up before the water goes out.  Not an unreasonable assumption, but a potentially dangerous one.  Not a good thing.

However, I don’t have the space to store 25 gallons of water per person any other way.  I’m kind of intrigued by the water blocks you can get.  They hold 3.5 gallons of water and are built to stack, two blocks per layer interlocking with the ones below and above.

Unfortunately, they’re expensive.

I also plan on getting some kind of large gravity filter.  I kind of like the Berkey line of filters, but I’ll also be looking at lower cost alternatives.

Food

I have a few weeks worth of food right now, but it’s not enough.  I need more like three months worth.

Right now, most of my foods are canned.  This is because it’s what my family cooks and eats.  We don’t eat dried beans or dried corn.  Frankly, I’ve never had a lot of luck cooking them.

However, part of this new effort will be mastering the use of these dried products.  I can cook the rice just fine, so I know I have the capability.  I need the practice.

At that point, I’ll probably get some dried beans for storage, and some dried corn.  Dried seems to be much cheaper than canned anyways, so we’ll go from there.

I also need to stock up on spices.  We keep a lot on hand anyways, but not enough to be sure we’ll last three months.

As far as starches go, though, I think I might have enough put aside already.  50 lbs of rice, 24 lbs of pasta (and we know a pound of this will feed all of us for a meal), and 19 bags of mashed potatoes.  If we figure a pound of rice per day, we’ve got 90+ days.

I’m just not sure my numbers are right on the rice.  I’ll be looking into that.

I’m also going to look at various dehydrated vegetables that will round out that aspect of our preps.  We love broccoli and cauliflower, but you can’t get cans of that so far as I can tell.  We need to do some work on that as well.

The trick there will be trying it first so we know it doesn’t suck.  My experience with freeze-dried foods doesn’t make me optimistic.

Means To Cook

You have to cook food, especially dried stuff.  We’ve got to have a stove of some sort.

Initially, I thought I’d have a Coleman camp stove for the initial stages, and then maybe use a homemade rocket stove for later.

Then I realized that was kind of stupid.

You see, “later” will be the time when most people will be hungry, and there I’d be, cooking.  Somehow I suspect the next meal prepared would be me and mine.  Not smart.

However, having the rocket stove outdoors well before hand and using it in the initial stages would simply be a case of “Tom’s got a way to cook food.”  In fact, I can permit others to use it as well.

When food starts to get scarce, I then move inside.  So far as anyone would know, I’m just as hungry as anyone else.  After all, why don’t they see me cooking anymore?

The camp stove would come in handy for short-term emergencies like power outages.

Ideally, I’d love to have a wood stove here in the house.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option right now.  Maybe in my next house.

Medical Supplies

We have always been a bit smarter than most when it comes to medical supplies.  We always have a more than ample stock of bandaids, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and OTC medications.

However, there are some more advanced first aid and trauma measures we haven’t adjusted for yet.  That needs to change.

My thinking is to get a refill kit for a first aid kit.  The kits themselves can be expensive, but the refills themselves aren’t too bad.  You pay more for the box than the supplies.  So, I will get a big tackle box as a “crash kit” and a larger tote with bulk supplies.

I also plan to get a dozen or so of the Israeli bandages that some folks prefer over QuickClot.  I’ve got some QuickClot in my blowout kit, but I don’t want to open that up and test it on a minor wound, so I have no idea how well it works.  What matters is being able to treat injuries.

I also need to get some suture kits and a surgical kit.

A note on those last two: I was a Navy Corpsman.  I’ve put in stitches before.  I’ve assisted in surgical procedures, and my father-in-law is a surgical tech.  We both have backgrounds to use these things correctly.  If you don’t, you may want to reconsider getting them.  Of course, if you’re getting them so you can hand them to someone who does know what they’re doing, then more power to ya.

I also need to look into some IV kits.

Weapons

This is more weapons and ammo than just weapons.  As I said, I’m good on long guns, with one per adult in the house.  I have two pistols and one shotgun.

I lack ammo for most of these.  In part, the Mosin Nagant I’m modding at the moment has no ammo because I haven’t found any locally yet.  I’ll get that handled soon enough.

One issue I have is that none of the long guns takes the same ammo.  An SKS, a Marlin 336, and a Mosin Nagant.  Yeah…it’s…eclectic to say the least. (This does not include the .22lr rifle I have.)

Now, I need at least one more pistol.  However, like the long guns, the two pistols I have are different calibers.  A 9mm semi-auto and a .38 revolver.  Clearly, my next pistol needs to be 9mm as well, but that’s a ways down the road (though I’m working on picking up a new client, and that should make it a bit easier to do this sooner).

I probably need to pick up a couple more shotguns as well, but I’m hesitant.  My son could probably learn to handle the recoil easily enough, but my wife?  Yeah, I could go 20 gauge for her, but why bother?  It’s yet another caliber to stock and do we really need three shotguns?

Something to think about.

Primarily, I need to pick up ammo.  Frankly, I need to inventory what I have.  There’s a bit of 7.62×39 and 9mm, but I’m lacking in 30-30 and, as I said, I have no 7.62x54R.  I’m also out of 30-30, which needs to be fixed.

Having multiple calibers is a mild annoyance, but it’s not an insurmountable problem.  However, it does mean I need to stock up and possibly prioritize weapons to get ammo for.

Comfort

Comfort means both physical and psychological.  For down here in South Georgia, physical comfort usually has more to do with combating heat than anything else.  That’s why I’ve bookmarked some things that may help.  They’re collars you soak in water, then wrap around the back of your neck.

As the water evaporates, it gets cool.  Due to its location, it helps feel cooler.  This is important.  You see, I suffered heat stroke about a year ago.  I now get very ill if I’m in the heat for too long.  In a long-term survival situation, I’m going to have to be in the heat.

Drinking fluids is a big part of the preventative treatment for that, but the collars should be a big help.

I also need to get some wool blankets to add to the legion of blankets my wife has accumulated here through the years.

However, that’s only part of the issue.  We also need to deal with the fact that our lives have been so upended.

That’s why I’m looking at brownie mixes that only require water, jello mixes, and pudding mixes to round out our food stores.  Things like that might just help us deal.

Boredom will be another killer.  Sure, we may be busy surviving, but you can’t work all the time.  Dark isn’t necessarily bedtime after all, and when it’s storming you can’t work outside.  That means you need ways to pass the time.

Books are everywhere in the house, and my son and I are both tabletop roleplaying gamers, which doesn’t require power.

We’ll also get a few decks of cards.

One thing we’re going to need is light, however.  For that, we’ll probably add to our oil lamps.  My wife has candles out the wazoo, but I like oil lamps.  I feel a lot safer with them myself.  In particular, we’ll probably get some railroad style lamps so we can carry them where we need them.

 

So, that’s what I’ve got in mind so far.  The trick will be what to get when.  Food will slow down a bit due to funds for that being almost depleted.  The water storage will be next because I need SOMETHING.

The trick will be getting something for all of this each and every few weeks so that everything is being addressed.  It’s easy to ignore something and then have it bite you in the butt.

So, working out how to do that will probably be the next post since thing one is so blasted long.  Again, I’m more than open to suggestions, criticisms, etc.  Just try and be polite about it. 🙂

 

What I Prep For And How?

I’m not going to tell you what to prep for, must less how to prep for it.  I barely know how to do most of this stuff myself.  However, what I’m prepping for — as well as my basic philosophy of prepping in general — is essential to discuss in order to understand why I make some of the decisions I make.

First, let’s understand that most preppers tend to pick a “worst case scenario” to work toward.  Prepping for a hurricane or tornado is one thing, but if you’re ready for the zombie apocalypse, an ice storm is small potatoes.

For me, the worst case scenario is any kind of electromagnetic pulse (EMP).  An EMP will fry out any non-hardened electronics which includes most of our infrastructure.  Only a handful of systems will survive, but those won’t be enough to handle the massive breakdown in social order.

The terrifying part is that this will happen at some point.

You see, there are two ways an EMP can be produced.  The first is through a nuclear explosion.  One high up in the atmosphere would disperse an EMP that could envelop the entire country.

And that’s the best case for an EMP since other nations wouldn’t be impacted and could give us aid.

However, EMPs are also produced by the sun.  A coronal mass ejection (CME) can and has produced a massive EMP that could cause even more damage.  A CME is a massive solar flare.  In the 19th century, a CME fried out the telegraph system in this country.  Luckily, that was the only electrical system in place at the time, so we survived.  If that happened today?

Yeah…not so good.

So, for me, that’s what I’m prepping for.  To me, an EMP would send us back into the early part of the 19th Century, and we’d have to learn how to make it all over again.

Now, with that in mind, I’m going to tell you what I don’t plan on having.  Since electricity will kind of be a non-entity, the soft glow of an electric light on in your home may serve as a beacon, calling on people to come and kick in your door and take your stuff.

So, that’s where my philosophy of prepping comes in.

I’m prepping for a permanent collapse, the end of all that we know.  As such, my preps aren’t going to be heavy on solar panels, battery operated gadgets, etc.  I’m going old school.

Instead of electric lamps, I have oil lamps.  Instead of digital copies of every prepping book imaginable, hardcopy is more practical for me.  Get the picture?

Of course, I’m not stupid.  While an EMP will eventually happen, there’s no telling when a CME will bring one, and terrorists may never use a nuke in such a way.  I’m not spending my life in fear.

I know that my preps are far more likely to be used to weather a nasty storm, a flood, or some other natural disaster.  I might (God forbid) even have to deal with some scary civil unrest like a prolonged riot.  We might even have to deal with something like Venezuela is dealing with, things like food shortages and empty grocery store shelves.  All of these are far, far more likely than an EMP.

But here’s the thing to keep in mind: If you’re ready for an EMP, you’re ready for almost anything.

Plus, my own plans for things like lighting don’t necessarily invite the curious.  An oil lamp glowing?  They’re common enough (though not necessarily common) that they don’t invite interest.  Candles are the same way.

Especially when no one else has anything electrical.

But that’s just my thinking on stuff like this.